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Friday, December 17, 2010

Weekly Snippet: Bow Down to the Baby in a Manger

When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers, but a man with discernment and knowledge maintains  order.--Proverbs 28:2 NIV

I am writing this post a day early, because my entire weekend, starting Friday morning, is scheduled solid with activities relating to Christmas and my sister's college graduation.  In my rush, I didn't have an idea for what to write, so I went to my bedroom, prayed, and cracked my Bible for ideas.  When I saw Proverbs 28: 2, I found myself wondering, "What does this have to do with the Christmas season?"  However, with some thought and prayer, I started seeing a connection, and I wanted to share it with you here.

When Jesus came into this world, the country was full of rulers.  Herod was the greatest of those in Israel, and even he wasn't as high-ranking as Caesar, whose census had brought Jesus to Bethlehem that night.  The fact is, every person, whether important or not, saw himself or herself as an important ruler--ruler of their own lives.  Following the example that Cain set at the beginning, no one was looking out for his brother (Genesis 4: 9).  If they had been, they would have seen a woman in labor and her frantic husband at the inn door, and they would have given up their room for them.

The fact is, the country was full of rebellion.  No one was seeking to please God; they only thought of themselves and getting "their due."  As a result, the town was in chaos and they all dropped the ball with the arrival of the King of Kings.

Now, a few righteous kings had successfully ruled over Bethlehem in the past, but they couldn't address this chaos.  The problem was a matter of righteousness and their power didn't reach that far. Bethlehem, like the whole country, needed a King who ruled with true understanding (understanding of their spiritual condition) and knowledge (an intimate acquaintance with God's perspective and His laws and righteousness).  Only He could bring order by leading their hearts.

Little did they know that night that their King had arrived, and that one day He would set the whole town back in order.  Jesus came once as a baby in a manger, so that we could know His gentle side, His love, and His mercy.  While He was here, He led with understanding and knowledge, showing mercy to those who didn't earn it, and sharing His knowledge with anyone who would listen and take it to heart.

He left only 33 short years later (in body, not in spirit), but His job as leader isn't done yet.  Those who know Him have been brought to order under His leadership.  He rules in their hearts, and because the same Man leads them all, they are unified (see John 17: 22-23; Ephesians 4: 2-6).

As for the rest of the people of Bethlehem (I am speaking figuratively of the whole world), He is coming back again some day soon to put them to order as well.  A country cannot go on forever with many kings; eventually one rises to pre-eminence.  First, we will see a false king who seems to establish peace for a few years, but chaos will still bubble under the surface of this false calm.  He will be no greater than the greatest king of Bethlehem in the days of Mary and Joseph--that distant Caesar, who couldn't even defend a baby's cause in that little town.

After that will come the Lion of Judah, the conquering King, that is, the returning Jesus Christ.  As C.S. Lewis often described Him in this role, "he is not a tame lion."  When Jesus returns, those who haven't been taking Him seriously, thinking of Him only as a feeble baby and not a victor in battle, will suddenly have to do so.  I'm not saying that Jesus will no longer be kind; I'm just saying that it will be time, for the sake of upholding justice, for wrongdoers to finally reap their punishment.  Even in His justice there will be kindness, since He has decided to give it at the right time (not prematurely) and He has decided to bring it to its fullest, but consistent, extent (nothing excessive or unjustified).  As Isaiah prophesied thousands of years ago,
Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.  By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked:  Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear.  They will say of me, ‘In the Lord alone are deliverance and strength.’”  All who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame.  But all the descendants of Israel will find deliverance in the Lord and will make their boast in him. (Isaiah 45: 22-25 NIV, updated 2010 version)
 Therefore, Jesus is bringing order to this world, but some will submit to His Lordship with humility, and some unwillingly.  This is my Christmas warning--don't be unprepared, not even this Christmas, for the coming King.  He isn't just a baby in a manger--He is God.  Take Him seriously!  Obey Him.  He isn't a lion to be trifled with.

Until next time, this is me, reminding you, to know the Lord your God and follow Him only!  Be a savvy sheep!